Augsburg and Aberdeen in comparison: new UK-German research funding to investigate medieval urban government


View of Augsburg, from the Nuremburg Chronicle (Die Schedelsche Weltchronik) (1493).

This new joint project, entitled ‘Finance, law and the language of governmental practice in late medieval towns: Aberdeen and Augsburg in comparison(FLAG), will examine how urban government was organised, executed and recorded in the late middle ages.

The study will place the Aberdeen Registers Online: 1398-1511 into comparison with Augsburg’s Master Builder’s Ledgers from 1320-1466 (Die Augsburger Baumeisterbücher) .

The project, which starts this month and runs for three years, has been awarded more than £500,000 together from the AHRC (Arts and Humanities Research Council) and the German Research Foundation (DFG). It will see the University of Aberdeen and Johannes Gutenberg University (JGU) Mainz work together to establish a broader European context for both digital resources.

The Augsburg Master Builder’s Ledgers cover 1320-1466 and are municipal financial records of period, whereas the Aberdeen Registers Online are primarily legal records. Thus the project will examine how both towns addressed matters of finance and law as they put government into practice. Particular attention is to be given to the variety of terminology used to record the exercise of government, and to identify similarity and difference between these towns which both used a mixture of Latin and vernacular languages in their administrative documentation.

Although Aberdeen and Augsburg were cities of quite different size and political context, those same differences are an advantage to the project, potentially bringing into relief what common features might be considered ‘urban’.

Like the Aberdeen Registers Online, Augsburg’s Ledgers have been transcribed and digitised in a previous project (which was led from Mainz), and they are now published online. Both digital editions are presented in the form of machine-readable XML data sets. This facilitates their comparison, and researchers in Mainz and Aberdeen will be exploring the opportunities and challenges in addressing these resources together, and investigating new techniques for automatic analysis to support historical investigation.

Follow the links here for the JGU Mainz announcement, the AHRC announcement, and today’s press release from the University of Aberdeen.